A conspiracy exists not merely in the intention of two or more persons but in the agreement of two or more to do an unlawful act by unlawful means. As long as the design rests in intention only it is not punishable. In other words, criminal conspiracy is a partnership in crime.
II. INGREDIENTS OF CRIMINAL CONSPIRACY
Criminal Conspiracy has been defined in S. 120-A of IPC. The following are the ingredients of criminal conspiracy as elicited in S. 120-A :
- There should be an agreement between two or more persons;
- The agreement should be to do or cause to be done –
- An illegal act, or
- An act which is though not illegal by illegal means.
The proviso further provides that there is distinction that is to be drawn b/w :
- An agreement to commit an offence &
- An agreement of which the object or means employed are illegal but it does not constitute an offence.
In the former case no overt act is necessary as mere agreement itself amount to an offence but in the latter case some overt act besides the agreement must be done by one or more parties to such an agreement.
III. EXPLANATION OF ESSENTIALS & RELATED CONCEPTS
1. Two or more must agree
To establish the charge of conspiracy it is compulsory that there must be an agreement to commit an offence. However, proof of direct meeting or bringing of parties in each other’s presence is not necessary. The agreement can be inferred from the circumstances of the case. It is important to note that so long as the criminal plan remains in one’s mind or intention only, it will not amount to conspiracy or even if matters are discussed and views are exchanged but the plan of action has not been settled by the concurrence of any two or more conspirators, the stage of criminal conspiracy would not be considered to have reached. It is only when the two agree to carry the plot into effect, that the very act becomes punishable if for a criminal means. Mere agreement to do an illegal act is sufficient to charge the person, it is not required that it should have been committed as well. The act of each of the parties, promise against promise, actus contra actum, becomes punishable if for a criminal object. It is not necessary that each member of the conspiracy must know all the details of the conspiracy.
Case Law : Yogesh Alias Sachin Jagdish Joshi v. State of Maharashtra
Held : The objective of conspiracy can be inferred from surrounding circumstances and conduct of the accused. It is a substantive offence.
Case Law : Case Law : CBI v. VK Shukla
Held : If prosecution fails to prove that one of the two accused was a party to a criminal conspiracy, then the same charge cannot be provd against the other accused.
Case Law : State of Tamil Nadu v. Nalini
Held : It was held in this case that the presence of the conspirator at the scene of crime is not necessary. In this case the Supreme Court culled out several principles relating to the law of conspiracy some of which are as follows :
- Once the object of conspiracy has been achieved, any subsequent act, which may be unlawful, would not make the accused a part of the conspiracy like giving shelter to an absconder.
- It is not necessary that all conspirators should agree to the common purpose at the same time. They may join with other conspirators at any time before the consummation of the intended objective, and all are equally responsible.
- Prosecution has to produce evidence not only to show that each of the accused has knowledge of the object of conspiracy but also of the agreement.
- A man may join a conspiracy by word or by deed.
2. Illegal Act, Illegal Means, Overt Act
As these expressions occur in the definition, the same require explanation in context of it :
- Illegal Act – The agreement must be do something forbidden by law to attract the charge of criminal conspiracy. An agreement which is immoral or against public policy or otherwise of such a character that the courts will not enforce, will not be necessarily illegal. But in the context of definition it can be said that an agreement to do an illegal act which might not be criminal, may also amount to criminal conspiracy.
- Illegal Means – An agreement to do an act which is lawful by unlawful means will constitute conspiracy. The end does not justify the means.
- Overt Act – Explained above. (When necessary & when not)
A. Proof of Conspiracy – Criminal Conspiracy can be proved either through direct evidence or through circumstantial evidence. In Param Hans Yadav v. State of Bihar, the supreme court observed that when prosecution in a case of criminal conspiracy relies upon circumstantial evidence, then it is their duty to establish a clear link and the chain has to be completed.
Case Law :- State of NCT Delhi v. Navjot Sandhu
Held : In this case the Supreme Court maintained a distinction between the conspiracy and offences committed in pursuance to the conspiracy. It held that those who committed offences pursuant to conspiracy will be individually liable for those offences in addition to being liable for criminal conspiracy. But the non participant conspirators cannot be held guilty for the offences committed by the other conspirators. It held that criminal liability cannot be fastened by way of analogy or by extension of a common law principle.
B. English Law – In English law as husband and wife are deemed to e one person, therefore, if man and his wife are the only parties to the conspiracy they cannot be punished for it, but in India they will be punished under the charge of criminal conspiracy.
IV. JUSTIFICATION FOR S. 120-A
The justification for conspiracy as an inchoate crime is the same as that of other inchoate crimes :
- Firstly, It enables the law enforcing agency to take preventive action against the intended offenders where it is clear that intention to commit the crime has been formed.
- Secondly, The combination of two or more persons to commit an illegal act gives momentum to the act which justifies its punishment at the earliest possible stage.
V. PUNISHMENT FOR CONSPIRACY
Punishment for criminal conspiracy has been prescribed in S. 120-B of IPC. This section simply provides that every person who is a part of criminal conspiracy for offences which are punishable with :
- Death or
- Imprisonment for life or
- Rigorous imprisonment for 2 years or upwards
will be punished in the same manner as if that person has abetted the offence. But this section relating to serious offences only applies when there is no express provision in the code for the punishment of a conspiracy to commit an offence.
Second Part of this section says that whoever is a party to any other conspiracy will be punished with imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months or fine or with both.
Thus, conspiracy is an inchoate crime and is punishable primarily because an agreement to commit a crime is a decisive act, fraught with potential dangers; but to bring an agreement to commit a civil wrong within the range of criminal conspiracy is to stretch the rationale of law to the farthest limit as a civil wrong if actually committed would not be indictable.